After hearing Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brook say he’s “concerned about making sure that every shot is contested,” NBA.com’s John Schumann tested the numbers.
First, the definition Schumann uses:
SportVU defines a jump shot as any shot out outside of 10 feet. It’s contested if a defender is within four feet of the shooter.
Per Schumann, the Thunder contest 23.8 percent of jumpers. For reference, league average is 30.9 percent.
Does that concern Brooks? No, via Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:
“We’ve been one of the better defensive teams the last three years,” Scott Brooks said, brushing off the number a bit. “… I do focus exclusively on defensive field goal percentage and last I checked a couple games ago, we were second in the league.”
The Thunder rank fourth in defensive field-goal percentage and fifth in defensive effective field-goal percentage – not quite as strong as Brooks suggests, but still quite impressive.
So, how does a team that rarely contests jumpers cause so many misses?
The Thunder allow the fifth-lowest field-goal percentage at the rim (57.6 percent), and that drops to 44.9 percent when Serge Ibaka defends the rim. That helps, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. As Schumann notes:
Thunder opponents have shot 38.7 percent on uncontested jumpers, the sixth lowest rate in the league.
That seems lucky.
Best I can tell, the Thunder do only a moderately good job of funneling those shots to bad shooters or forcing those shots to the farther end of the range. At a certain point, whether or not an open player makes or misses a shot is independent of the defense.
Maybe the Thunder just contest really when they contest. After all, the definition of contesting is pretty broad.
But considering Oklahoma City is making some of its biggest defensive strides on 3-pointers – an area prone to wild defense-independent swings – good fortune seems more likely.
Really, this is the first step in evaluating the Thunder. The next move is watching them more closely in this specific area, using the eye test to cover what the numbers don’t.
How does Oklahoma City forced so many missed jumpers without contesting many of them?